Topeka Lawrence High's David Johnston insists he's a good guy, contrary to what some Emporia parents might think.
A chain of events during the Class 6A regional cross country meet put Johnston the race leader in front of a group of Emporia boosters when he happened to turn around and wave at those behind him.
Let Johnston, the individual winner Saturday at the Shawnee North Community Center, explain.
"I was supposed to go out real fast and then the second half just coast," he said. "I went out too fast and got a huge cramp and two Emporia guys passed me on either side."
Emporia, by the way, was the team regional champion and Lawrence the runnerup. Both, along with third-place Topeka, advance to the state meet next Saturday at Manhattan's Warner Park.
But anyway . . .
"THEN JASON Kent (of Topeka West) came up and we started running together," Johnston continued. "We passed the Emporia guys and got what we thought was a pretty good lead. We were talking about the weather, just anything.
"When we got to the last stretch, everybody was yelling, and all of a sudden the Emporia guy zoomed up beside us."
It was when the time came to win the race that the trouble started.
"Jason said, `I can't kick, Dave.' I said, `Yeah you can,' and started waving him on. Then we were in front of a bunch of Emporia parents, and they thought I was taunting their runners. So then I had to explain to them what I was doing and also win the race."
He won the race in 16:23.6, and junior Ned Ryun joined him in the top 10, placing sixth.
Mind you, it was nothing personal against the Spartans' runners.
"OUR BIGGEST lead on them was 20 yards," Johnston said. "They were probably close enough to hear us talking. If they could, they knew we weren't talking bad about them and that they were welcome. Newkirk (runnerup Kevin) tried, but he just came too late."
The Lion boys made their moves too late to grab the regional title.
"We had too many excuses today," coach Steve Sublett said. "Our heads weren't into it. We're going to get our heads into it next week."
Lawrence High's girls, more into the regional than any race this season, finished third. Manhattan ran away with the meet with 26 points. Emporia had 66, and Lawrence was a tight three points behind at 69.
"The way we've been running, we haven't even been competitive with Emporia," girls coach Dick Reamon said. "We really ran well. As a group, this was by far our best run of the year."
Debbie Hall led the way, finishing fourth. Melody Currie was eighth.
"Like I told the girls, every one of our seven runners has had a good race this year," Reamon said, "but we've not run well as a team. We need all five pieces, and we may need all seven."
FOR HER part, Hall didn't expect to do so well as the Lions' first piece.
"I'm very surprised, and I'm happy," she said, "because last week at (Sunflower) league I was 14th, and regional is supposed to be tougher than league.
"We thought we were fighting for fourth. As a team, we ran really well."
It's that team concept that Reamon wants to breed before the Lions head to state.
"This was a darn important meet," he said. "We needed it to set up for next week, because we hadn't done all that well. I just think this was a lot stronger, more consistent performance throughout."
Team scores: Emporia 63, Lawrence 70, Topeka 99, Shawnee Heights 101, Olathe South 110, Manhattan 136, Topeka West 136, Junction City 149, Topeka Seaman 250, Olathe North 315, Washburn Rural 339.
Lawrence placings: 1. David Johnston, 16:23.6. 6. Ned Ryun, 16:47.1. 19. Bill Radcliffe, 17:16.3. 21. Peter Johnston, 17:21.1. 23. Sean Krider, 17:25.5. 38. Alok Pal 17:42.4. 61. Drew Ryun, 18:49.3. GIRLS
Team scores: Manhattan 26, Emporia 66, Lawrence 69, Shawnee Heights 145, Topeka West 146, Olathe South 174, Junction City 191, Topeka 210, Washburn Rural 258.
Lawrence placings: 4. Debbie Hall, 12:41.1. 8. Melody Currie, 12:47.1. 17. Kely Harmon, 13:24.7. 22. Jennifer Holmes, 13:36.9. 25. Carolyn Schumm, 13:41.6. 27. Dawna Houchin, 13:46.0. 35. Carole Cadue, 14:12.2.